21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


Every Sunday, we’ll share 21 Fantasy Rambles from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s 'Daily Ramblings'.

Writers/Editors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber


1. Recent news on the Canadiens has Jesperi Kotkaniemi reporting for camp after spending time in Finland recovering from a March spleen injury. Kotkaniemi had been sent to the AHL at the end of January, so it’s not certain where he would fit into the Habs lineup for their play-in series against Pittsburgh. For what it’s worth, the 2018 third overall pick was a point-per-game player in the AHL (13 points in 13 games) before the injury. At the very least, it seems as though he’ll be available if Claude Julien wishes to use him.

After a rookie season in which he scored 34 points (11g-23a) in 79 games, Kotkaniemi fell victim to the sophomore slump with just eight points (6g-2a) in 36 games. Before declaring Kotkaniemi a bust or jumping to the conclusion that the Habs passed on better players in the draft (eg. Quinn Hughes), remember that Kotkaniemi went straight to the NHL after his draft season and will only turn 20 in a matter of days. Although someone like Nick Suzuki might be a young center with higher upside on the same roster, the Habs will still have very high hopes for a player that they drafted third overall just two summers ago. (july4)


2. Ryan Pulock has been the top-scoring Islanders defenseman the past two seasons, yet he did not lead the Islanders in power-play time among defensemen. Devon Toews (2:14 PPTOI) spent more time on the first-unit power play than Pulock (01:46 PPTOI), even though Pulock (8 PPP) outscored Toews (6 PPP) on the power play.

I wonder if this is a possible “handedness” issue. Pulock is a right-handed shot, while Toews is a left-handed shot. On the Islanders’ power-play videos I could find, the Isles seem to position either Mathew Barzal or Jordan Eberle at or near the point. Both Barzal and Eberle are right-handed shots, hence using the left-handed Toews as the one defenseman.

The Islanders’ power play could be due for a reconfiguration, though. It finished the season with a 17.3% success rate, which was 24th among 31 teams. The Islanders as a team also finished 31st (dead last) in overall power-play time and 30th with 29 power-play goals, so they’re also not receiving a ton of power-play opportunities to start with. So even a bump to the first unit may not help Pulock’s value a great deal. Barzal led the team with 12 power-play points, but he didn’t even finish in the top 100 in the league in that category. (july4)


3. I’m not sure about the Oilers’ ability to advance through the playoffs, but I’d have to think with the long layoff and unusual situation that it’s anyone’s guess which teams will be more successful. Maybe, just maybe, Edmonton’s role as a hub city helps Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in some way. It won’t be in the sense of typical home-ice advantage, since there won’t be any fans, and players from the local team will also be staying in a hotel. Maybe with familiarity with local amenities, but we won’t be talking about teams entering a hostile environment or anything like that. (july4)


4. Is Igor Shesterkin a Top 100 Roto Rankings option? Honestly, I don’t know whether to include Shesterkin in the Roto Rankings. On one hand, he took the league by storm this past season and should be a must-own in keeper leagues. On the other hand, we don’t know how many starts he will receive next season, or if he will even be the starting goalie for the Rangers’ play-in series against Carolina.

Take a look at Igor Shesterkin‘s game log on his Frozen Tools profile. There’s a lot of green checkmarks and not a lot of red x’s there. More specifically, 10 wins to two losses, and nine quality starts to one really bad start. Only Corey Crawford, Carter Hart, and Anton Khudobin have a higher percentage of quality starts since January 7, the day Shesterkin made his NHL debut. As well, only Tuukka Rask and Juuse Saros have a better save percentage than Shesterkin (.932 SV%) since January 7. Shesterkin has dominated everywhere he’s played (KHL, AHL) with a sub-2.00 GAA since 2016-17. There’s nowhere for him to be except the NHL.


5. The only problem is the near term; Shesterkin might not even be the starter for the play-in series against Carolina. Although Henrik Lundqvist started only one of the Rangers’ last 19 games, his splits against Carolina are impressive (3-0-0, 2.33 GAA, .947 SV% this season, 24-4-0, 1.73 GAA, .947 SV% since 2011). In a short series, David Quinn could opt for Lundqvist’s experience and track record. Then there’s Alexandar Georgiev, who has also played reasonably well in front of a Rangers’ defense that doesn’t really provide an easy goaltending environment. If either Lundqvist or Georgiev are traded, Shesterkin will have an easier path. Yet with Seattle expansion forthcoming, there will be more goalie sellers than goalie buyers, which won’t make a goalie trade an easy task.

I might be jumping the gun here, but I’m going to say that Shesterkin should be worth reaching for. He may very well hit the under on 40 starts, but the ceiling is extremely high. It’s the kind of pick that you will either hit a home run or strike out on, but you don’t win fantasy leagues by making nothing but safe picks. If you play any single-season leagues where fantasy owners might be drafting volume goalies, Shesterkin might slip down the rankings. Draft a more stable option as your first goalie, then make your move for Shesterkin at around pick 100. There haven’t been many stable goalies these last few years anyway.

As for who the starter will be for the Carolina series, my guess is that it will be either the veteran Lundqvist or future starter Shesterkin. I know that doesn’t narrow it down fully if you are looking for a Rangers starting goalie.


6. Many people were excited for Andre Burakovsky‘s fantasy value heading into the season, given that he was going from the depth in Washington to the top-6 in Colorado. Even with an injury keeping him out of more than 10 games, he posted a career-high 45 points. The big help was the 11 PPPs, which may not seem like a lot, but when we see his 10 combined PPPs over the previous three seasons, it suddenly seems pretty important.

Hey, would you look at that, he had an 83.3 percent IPP. He also got a lot of top PP time because of injuries to Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, and Mikko Rantanen. There is room on the top unit for a fourth member, and Burakovsky is one of the players that could take that role. If he doesn’t, though, expecting a 60-point season next year is a bridge too far. (july2)


7. I’ve written about how wrong I was on Roope Hintz, and that he will be a fantasy performer to track for years to come. Now that I’ve gotten my comeuppance, let’s talk about his production for a second.

Hintz was good, but he was still on just a 45-point pace/82 games. What helped him get to 33 points in 60 games were his 14 PPPs. He managed 14 PPPs because his IPP this past year was 87.5 percent, sixth in the league. That’s very, very high, especially when you consider the power play has names like John Klingberg, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, and Alex Radulov. He had been used on both units and I don’t see room for him when everyone is healthy, but given the age of the team’s stars (no pun intended), there may not be a lot of games where everyone is healthy.

If Hintz had an IPP around 65 percent – which would still be in the top-third of the league – he loses four PPPs. Losing four PPPs when you don’t have a lot of points to begin with basically neuters his fantasy value. I’d expect more even-strength points next year and all that, so it’s not as if he’s dead in the water. But people may expect 15-20 PPPs out of him next year, and that’s too much for me. I think if he can get to 15 PPPs in 2020-21, it’d be a successful season. (july2)


8. One other guy I want to mention is Jack Eichel. He’s obviously the focal point of Buffalo's power play, but he had never reached an 80 percent IPP in his career until this year, when it hit 86.2 percent. We expect it to be high, even among the highest in the league, but as established earlier, that is far too high. (july2)


9. What could mean the difference for Columbus moving past Toronto (and further) or not in the upcoming play-in round comes down to their two top scoring wingers: Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Atkinson had a tough year, but he was fighting an ankle injury throughout so maybe we can cut him slack. We should note that in what was probably his worst season in five years, his 82-game paces were 22 goals and 48 points while skating for a bottom-5 offensive team in the league this year. Once the season is underway, he’ll have had several months to recover. If he can find that 30-goal form, it’s a problem for Toronto.

A healthy Bjorkstrand will mean a big difference, as well. He finished the year with 21 goals in 49 games while landing over three shots per game. He looked every bit the future 30-goal scorer they hoped he could be.

If the team can run two different 30-goal scorers, who are healthy, on two different lines, it goes a long way in providing the offensive punch necessary in this matchup. (jun30)


10. As for the Maple Leafs, the blue line may be an issue. Tyson Barrie had a real tough year and it didn’t really matter which coach it was under. Morgan Rielly was humming along until Mike Babcock was fired and then injuries hit. Justin Holl had a nice breakout season, but the performance of guys like Travis Dermott and Rasmus Sandin will probably make the difference. We know Rielly and Barrie are bad defensively. Can the depth guys pick up that defensive slack? They may need to.

Frederik Andersen may be the most important player in the Columbus-Toronto series. If the Andersen of 2018-19 shows up, this could be a 3-0 for the Leafs. If the 2019-20 Andersen shows up, this could be a 3-0 for the Blue Jackets. Goaltending is ever-important in the playoffs, but especially in a series against a team that locks down defensively. The Leafs will need to capitalize on the chances they get. (jun30)


11. Not so much previews as they are refreshers, and with in mind the above excerpts on the Blue Jackets and Leafs, here is the full set of previous Ramblings regarding the various play-in rounds:


12. @riji24 asked: Will Kakko breakout next year in a similar fashion to how Svechnikov did this season?

I don’t believe so. I think Kaapo Kakko‘s rookie season was much, much worse than Andrei Svechnikov‘s. I would be happy with Kakko just getting regular third-line playing time and getting into every game. And 40 points would be nice. If he does that, then I could see Year 3 going down the way Svechnikov’s sophomore campaign went.


13. @Mawesome21 asked: Of the 16 play-in teams which pose the best landing spots for Alexis Lafreniere's fantasy potential?

  1. Edmonton. And that would be ridiculous. And 1-2 are interchangeable.
  2. Pittsburgh. And that would be ridiculous.
  3. Rangers. This is going to be a high-flying team, and soon. Sooner with Lafreniere.
  4. Vancouver (jun29)


14. @seanycrox asked: Sneaky prospects who could make their NHL squads next year? And ones that can be had in later rounds of keeper league drafts?

The Fantasy Prospects Report is a great resource for this. I would be looking at players like Josh Mahura (ANA), Joey Keane (CAR), Ty Dellandrea (DAL, if he falls that far), Tyler Benson (EDM), Jesse Ylonen (MTL), Kieffer Bellows (NYI), P-O Joseph (PIT), Sasha Chmelevski (SJS), Lucas Elvenes (VGK). (jun29)


15. @young_p10 asked: Thoughts on Olofsson, Bjorkstrand, and Fiala?

Victor Olofsson – A hard-working, skilled, over-achieving player who will probably have a career like Mike Hoffman in terms of production, with upside somewhere in the 70s thanks to likely playing with Jack Eichel very often. I tried very hard to draft him last summer and then later acquire him. In both my full dynasty drafts (keep everyone) he was literally taken one pick before me. Both times. In fact, having learned my lesson in the first draft, I traded UP in the second draft to make sure I got him. And still didn’t get him.

Oliver Bjorkstrand – The highest upside of the three. He doesn’t need linemates to help, he IS the linemate to help. A year from now you’ll see – superstar.

Kevin Fiala – He had 47 points in his last 49 games. This is the player that the Wild went after. He is panning out, and they will continue to give him every opportunity to continue panning out. I think he’ll be better than Mikael Granlund was for this team. (jun29)


16. @ODBsean asked: Will Carter Hart improve his road stats next season? Which defenseman runs the Flyers PP?

This has become Ivan Provorov‘s team when it comes to defensemen. If the Flyers are unable to trade Shayne Gostisbehere, then he’ll get a shot early on just to see if he can find his mojo. If he does, then he can steal it. But would you bet on that? I certainly wouldn’t. But ‘if’ Ghost does regain the old magic, the Flyers will give him loads of PP time because they can’t really use him anywhere else. And that would be at the expense of Provorov. But again – I wouldn’t bet on that outcome.

As for Hart – I always believe young players on the rise will at least slightly improve, year over year. I don't see why Hart will be any different. He had such an amazing second half.

Travis Sanheim is also one to watch, but I don’t feel he will get a good chance next year unless Provorov gets hurt. (jun29)


17. @beeprocs asked: Do you think any fantasy sports platforms will change their normal playoff pools to accommodate for a longer playoff this year? Along the lines of a Yahoo regular season setup but adapted for the playoffs.

Yes, I think the playoff pool managers will be ready for the 24-team format. I’ll be changing my Interactive Playoff Draft List to handle the 24 teams as well. Playoff pool drafts are going to be real fun this year with such a large crop of players to choose from and more teams to spread around your roster. (jun29)


18. @bruuntuun asked: Is Nolan Patrick still worth keeping?

Everyone is worth keeping in one league or another. But in many leagues…well, most leagues… I wouldn’t bother keeping him. But I think he has some trade value so I would go that route first before dropping him. The upside is there, but he’s still going to take a couple of years to get there. But he’s an injury risk and a health risk in fantasy, and you have to think that will slow his progression even further. I am not a patient man in my leagues.

I should clarify the above statement. I am very patient when it comes to the same season. I will wait out short-term, early slumps and stand firm that they will reach the full-season projection. Probably to a fault. But I don’t like waiting several years on players, I would rather give another player a chance with better odds of an earlier payoff. (jun29)


19. @NHFL_official asked: Who should be drafted higher in a league that counts hits and SOG: William Nylander or Bryan Rust?

I’ll take the opportunity here to promote our ‘compare players’ feature in Frozen Tools. For these two players (found here) the stats are neatly stacked one above the other, in three different sections. As an easy shortcut – just go to one player profile, and then in Info/Analysis there is a compare box that quickly auto-fills for you – voila, you have two players on the compare page. You can add more, comparing many players at once.

Anyway, circling back to the question. I can’t believe Rust did what he did. I don’t buy it and the advanced stats point to that. But he is still a solid 60-point player, adjusting for 82 games, or 50-point player when you don’t adjust (he’s a Band-Aid Boy). Nylander is a player on the rise and I think a 75-point player trumps a 50-point player when SOG are similar and Hits lean heavily the other way. So Nylander should go first. He should also go first for the sake of trade value – you could get more for Nylander than you would for Rust even if he produces better numbers for you early on next season. (jun29)


20. @NHLRumourReport asked: Do you think fantasy leagues should include or exclude the play-in round points (and what about the round robin seeding games between the top 8 teams)?

The NHL counts them as playoff points, and so should we. I have spoken to both Fantrax and Office Pools with regards to what they are doing, and both will accommodate for this. And, in fact, will probably default to this. That’s not 100% at this point, but that’s where they’re leaning and that’s where I think it will end up. This is the way my league will do it, as we follow the NHL in every way we can. (jun29)


21. Travis Konecny – not Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, or Jakub Voracek – led the Flyers in points this season. These three other Flyers are currently in the Top 100 Roto Rankings, so what about Konecny? If you go with this season’s stats alone, he deserves to be in there and could arguably be ranked higher than the other three Flyers. Yet if you go back three seasons (as I prefer to do when projecting players), he is well behind the other three in points.

You may be wondering if Konecny led the Flyers in scoring because he got lucky as opposed to being a player on the rise. Well, his shooting percentage of 17% is higher than it has been in previous years, but it has normally been high anyway (between 13-14%). It’s probably better to think of Konecny as a player who is on the rise.


Have a good week, folks be safe!!

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